COP27 Insights: An Ocean of Potential
Mia Clement (she/they)
The 27th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 27) to the UNFCCC will take place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. COP27 will bring governments together to accelerate global efforts to confront the climate crisis. It is an important meeting because the latest science shows that climate change is moving much faster than we are and is pushing ecosystems and communities to their limits.
The Glasgow Climate Pact, agreed at COP26, recognises the ocean under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and backs an annual dialogue on strengthening ocean-based action to take place in the summers before COP summits, starting in 2022. Small island state representatives at COP26 stated they would like to see further action and the COP process get “consistently bluer”. Others argued that too much had been pledged on forests and that more needed to be committed to ocean climate finance.
Alongside the official recognition of ocean-based climate action as part of the Glasgow Climate Pact, COP26 saw a host of separate ocean-based initiatives launched by public and private-sector entities. However, to limit the effects climate change will have on the ocean, and for the ocean itself to play an effective role in mitigating climate change, action – public, private and from coalitions – needs to be enhanced.
COP25 saw talk about the importance of creating a dialogue on the ocean and climate change, in addition to the launch of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. COP26, however, had even more of a blue focus. The summit’s fifth day was dedicated to oceans, calling for action to protect and restore their health and resilience.
An extensive list of ocean-positive initiatives was announced on “Ocean Action Day” including:
It is important to note that ocean solutions can also play a significant role in country climate pledges made under the COP process, otherwise known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs). As of November, this year, 54 NDCs contained at least one ocean-focused action, and at COP26 the Seychelles revised its NDC to specifically include the blue economy and coastal adaptation – with it pledging to protect 100% of mangrove and seagrass by 2030.
However, there is further untapped potential for ocean-based solutions in NDCs. The Marine Conservation Society and Rewilding Britain have pointed out that ocean-focused climate initiatives are vital, for example, for the UK to achieve its 2050 net-zero emissions target.
Globally, it has been estimated that ocean climate solutions can close the 1.5C “emissions gap” – i.e., the difference between emissions projections under current climate policies and a 1.5C-friendly pathway – by 21%. To help close the gap, measures can be taken to safeguard blue carbon ecosystems; to target and reduce emissions from fisheries and aquaculture; to expand the provision of offshore renewable energy; and to work to further cut emissions from shipping.
Now that countries have agreed to revise and come back with stronger NDCs at COP27 in Egypt, this marks a perfect opportunity for such solutions to be factored in and for the oceans to fulfil their true potential in helping countries cut their carbon footprints.
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